IndyCar’s Nashville polesitter for the second straight year, Scott McLaughlin, believes it was his best ever qualifying session in his young career stateside.
The three-time Supercars champion, who made his IndyCar debut in the 2020 IndyCar finale, was able to nail such a strong first lap on Firestone alternates in Q1 Group 1 that he was able to park his Team Penske Chevrolet and save some more life in that tire set for the Firestone Fast Six.
He duly delivered when it mattered, taking pole for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix by over 0.32s ahead of Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward.
For McLaughlin, it was the fourth pole of his 46-race IndyCar career.
“Really satisfying because it all started in Q1 for us,” he said. “Pumped a decent lap out there, 0.6s better than P2. We were able to do one lap on our greens; bolted those on for Q3. I just had to make sure we got to the Fast Six, which we did.
“Every lap in qualy, nailed it pretty good. A really satisfying qualifying session – probably the best of my IndyCar career, to be honest.”
He described his pole-winning effort of 1m14.6099s – 101.327mph around the 2.1-mile street course – as “the money one – really nice, juicy. I’m really happy with that.
“Honestly, same car as what we ran last year. It’s just been unreal. The Chevy has been awesome. [There’s] been a lot of gains everywhere. I think we’ve made improvements. Overall, just to come here with the same philosophy, just nail laps – it’s a good feeling, especially with the interruptions between sessions.
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“I actually wanted it to rain. I was excited with the rain. The rain was a lot of fun this morning; [I] had a blast. Learn a ton every time I’m in the rain. Nice to be fast in the wet and dry.”
The 28-year-old New Zealander admitted he felt like last year’s race at Nashville got away from him, when he was beaten by compatriot Scott Dixon who had been recovering from an early accident with a wildly alternate strategy.
“The final stint there, we were 15th,” he recalled, “Managed to lose by a nose. A lot went on. Our car was phenomenal. I feel like it’s just as good this year. Just a matter of… I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. You can’t even plan, really. The guy won last year doing six stops!
“You just got to play it on the run and try and do the best job, execute every lap that I can. Pit stops need to be good. The reason we were back there last year was a bad pitstop. That was an unfortunate thing that doesn’t really happen on my car.
“Yeah, I’m super pumped for tomorrow to see what we got…
“I mean, you’re just waiting for the yellow light to flash up on your dash or something like that. You can’t control anything like that. It’s a matter of me controlling what I can control, [and] execute. I feel like I’ve done that all weekend. It’s just a matter of executing for tomorrow’s race.”